Eating Out in Paris
The common denominator of almost everyone who visits Paris
is the enjoyment of French food and the thousands of restaurants
around this glorious city. But unlike North American where most
eating establishments are called restaurants, Parisians have a basic
understanding what kind of food and experience to expect
when they visit a café, brasserie, salon de thé,
bar a vin or a bistro.
Here's a list of what service and food you might expect when
looking for a place to eat:
A café is any establishment where you can stop for nothing more than
a beverage and stay as long as you want. Sometimes a bistro or a
brasserie may also be considered a café. They do serve light menu
such as sandwiches, omelettes, salads, or even croissants at
breakfast time. This is the place to sit when you just want
to relax and people watch. A waiter might ask you to settle your
bill early if they are going off duty but the chair is yours
until you are ready to leave ... so don't complain about the cost
of your espresso. You are paying for chair rental.
Café de Flore is a great people watching place and Ina Gartner of Barefoot
Contessa fame loves to just sit here with a glass of champagne and an
omelet and watch the Parisian society walk by.
If you have breakfast at the Café de Flore,
be sure to save your lovely placemat of the café
at it's Saint Germain location.
Traditionally, the bistro is a small, casual restaurant that is family
owned. The menu changes daily with only a few dishes offered
and wines come in carafes. The prices are usually moderate.
But, there are some bistros that are quite elaborate and pricey.
The menus are always posted outside.
Looking for a place to buy yummy goodies for a picnic or
eating en plein air? A boulangerie carries wonderful breads
as well as cheese, olives, ham and paté as spreads. Even
a patisserie that is known for it's sweet offerings make
savory items for a picnic.
As I walk along the streets around
lunchtime, many patisseries have prepared sandwiches
ready to go. Aren't you amazed at seeing all the Parisians
walking along a street at lunch chomping on their long
baquette sandwich? They walk and eat. No wonder they
The word comes from brewer so you can be sure that
beer will be on the menu. You can order une pression (on tap)
or un demi ( larger). The food is mostly specialities
from the Alsace region, which means sausages,
saurkraut and Alsatian white wine.
Generally, a restaurant is a fancier establishment
with a printed menu as opposed to one on a chalkboard.
It also usually costs more and may specialize in a
special cuisine such as seafood, regional or
Salon de thé:
Unlike tea salons in England that serve cucumber
sandwiches, the Parisians mostly serve dessert.
A great example is Laduree or even one of the
most famous, Mariage Freres in the Marais.
One of my "to-do" items is to visit and photograph
all the Laduree thé salons. I love the one in the
6th arrondissement. You sit in an oriental setting
and drink your fragrant thé and nibble
on the most delicious sweet pastries.
Price Tips To Remember:
1. There may be different prices depending on where you sit.
Standing at the bar (zinc) to have coffee is cheaper than
sitting in the dining room, which is less expensive than
the prime people-watching spot on the terrace.
Personally, I think it's worth it.
2. Nearly every eating establishment bill you receive will
include the tip (servis compris). If the service was
really good, it's nice to leave a few euros. I do this if
it's a neighborhood café that I frequent often.
It's nice to be greeted when you arrive.
3. If you do not want to be seen as a tourist,
don't order café au lait. Order a café creme.
I am already making lists of cafés, bistros and other
wonderful eating establishments I want to try on my trip.
But, I always have my birthday meal
at Café Constant in the 7e arrondissment. I must
say hello to the older French woman who comes in
every night for dinner and brings her little
poodle to sit next to her. It's a wonderful way for
me to practice my French, meet some great people
and have a delicious meal by one of the top
chefs in Paris ... Christian Constant.